With dim prospects for success, world powers gathered in Munich, Germany, to find ways to end the bloodletting in Syria and open channels of desperately needed humanitarian aid.
Russia, which is backing the Syrian regime, is proposing a cease-fire to begin March 1. The suspicion is that Russia would prefer a cease-fire to begin three weeks from now in order to provide time to finish crushing the rebels and return the besieged city of Aleppo, Syria’s largest, to the hands of President Bashar Assad.
The United States, Saudi Arabia, other Arab Gulf states and much of the West want to get rid of Assad, saying his brutality and willingness to use chemical weapons against his own people make him more suited for a war-crimes tribunal than a presidential palace. But Russia and Iran remain Assad’s firm backers, and their forces have shifted the balance of power in war-torn Syria back to Assad after nearly five years of civil war.
Another goal of the Munich talks is to persuade the warring parties to return to negotiations in Geneva on Feb. 25. The first attempt at negotiations broke down earlier this month when opposition groups walked out over the Aleppo offensive.